What can books tell us about a generation?  A college student would answer this question in a different manner than a stay-at-home mom or a young lawyer.  But I am fairly certain that if the question was posed to all three individuals the consensus would be that these were the most talked about books of the decade. So when I decided to do some research about the Publishers Weekly Bestsellers from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, I immediately thought of my parents who could comment on the most popular books of their day. The experience of reading aloud my compiled list and hearing their oohs and aahs was entertaining and gave me insight into the popular authors, series, and genres of decades past.  Thanks also to my colleague Laura who helped review and select the popular titles from the 1990s and 2000s (coming soon). Here are a few of the titles that were at the top of our list! These titles and more are available in the OverDrive Marketplace.




1980 Princess Daisy, Judith Krantz

1982 Master of the Game, Sidney Sheldon

1982 North and South, North and South Trilogy, Book 1, John Jakes

1985 Contact, Carl Sagan (Audiobook)

1985 Lake Wobegone Days, Garrison Keillor

1986 The Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne Series, Book 2, Robert Ludlum

1986 The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy

1987 Misery, Stephen King

1987 Patriot Games, Jack Ryan Series, Book 2, Tom Clancy

1987 Presumed Innocent, Kindle County Series, Book 1, Scott Turow

1988 Zoya, Danielle Steel

1989 The Pillars of the Earth, The Pillars of the Earth Series, Book 1, Ken Follett


Renee Lienhard is a Collection Analyst with OverDrive.


2 Responses to “Delve into Decades Past: Publishers Weekly Bestsellers – 1980s”

  1. Heather Shaver

    It’s interesting (to me, at least) to see information like this. I see you have the year the book was published, but I was wondering if you took the statistics from published until the day of the research to find this list of bestsellers or if you broke it down by only the decade the title was published in. The wording “Bestsellers from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s” could go either way, to me.

    • Adam Sockel

      Hi Heather, Great question. I believe the information was pulled from lists of that time but I will confirm for you.